Original Contributions| Volume 58, ISSUE 6, P874-881, June 2020

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Emergency Department Chest Pain Patients With or Without Ongoing Pain: Characteristics, Outcome, and Diagnostic Value of the Electrocardiogram



      In emergency department (ED) chest pain patients, it is believed that the diagnostic accuracy of the electrocardiogram (ECG) for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is higher during ongoing than abated chest pain.


      We compared patient characteristics and the diagnostic performance of the ECG in ED patients presenting with ongoing, vs. abated, chest pain.


      In total, 1132 unselected ED chest pain patients were analyzed. The patient characteristics and diagnostic accuracy for index visit ACS of the emergency physicians’ interpretation of the ECG was compared in patients with and without ongoing chest pain. Logistic regression analysis was performed to control for possible confounders.


      Patients with abated chest pain (n = 508) were older, had more comorbidities, and had double the risk of index visit ACS (15%) and major adverse cardiac events (MACE) at 30 days (15.6%) compared with patients with ongoing pain (n = 631; ACS 7.3%, 30-day MACE 7.4%). Sensitivity of the ECG for ACS was 24% in patients with ongoing pain and 35% in those without, specificity was 97% in both groups, negative predictive value was 94% and 89%, respectively, and positive likelihood ratio 10.6 and 7.8, respectively. When the diagnostic performance was controlled for confounders, there was no significant difference between the groups.


      Our results indicate that ED chest pain patients with ongoing pain at arrival are younger, healthier, and have less ACS and 30-day MACE than patients with abated pain, but that there is no difference in the diagnostic accuracy of the ECG for ACS between the two groups.


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